As a music notation package Finale has come a long way in the many years since it was first released. Each release has brought about significant improvements and the new Finale 2008 is no exception. However some of the lingering issues from the past continue to persist even in this latest upgrade. This article will point out the positives, and the negatives, surrounding this latest iteration of MakeMusic's flagship product.
Human Playback With Realistic Instrument Sounds:
The most noticeable improvement to the Finale 2008 software is the addition of full VST audio support. For those unfamiliar with VST and the term "sound sets," essentially you can think of them as replacements for your standard MIDI instrument sounds. Until now music played on your computer sounded like... well... Music played on your computer! With the addition of the Garritan Personal Orchestra sound sets you no longer have to endure the tinny sounding imitations of acoustic instruments. Instead you can hear your compositions played back with sounds that are strikingly lifelike. The addition of these sound sets is a welcome addition, but it does come with some excess baggage. First the sound sets will eat up an extra two gigs of space on your computer, and depending on the speed of your machine the playback may or may not be pristine. For smaller scores, with up to ten instruments, the playback is still superior in every way to the old MIDI libraries.
Live Audio Recording and Overlays in Finale 2008:
For the first time in any music notation software package you can overlay a recorded audio track on top of your score to produce a realistic reproduction of a live performance. For example, say you wrote an arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner . With the new Finale 2008 software you can have a singer record their voice singing their part as the music scrolls across the screen. This recording can then be incorporated into the score's playback so that you can see how the finished product may sound.
Improved Editing Features of Finale 2008:
One of Finale's annoyances was that if you wanted to copy/paste a twelve bar section you would have to highlight the entire twelve bar segment of the score into which you wanted to paste, otherwise Finale would only paste in the amount of measures you had highlighted. This issue has been corrected in Finale 2008. This, and the addition of very handy right-click context menus available while using almost any tool set are a very welcome change.
Clean Up Your Act, PLEASE!
This Finale 2008 review would not be complete without at least mentioning one of the minor drawbacks to the program. Despite all the great things about the latest version of Finale, there is one issue that MakeMusic still has not attempted to fix. People have complained about the graphics quality of the Finale products for quite a long time, and unfortunately this version continues to be only average in this regard. While other methods of software based music notation have come very close to professional output quality (Lilypond and Sibelius for example), Finale continues to produce printed and on screen notation that are much less aesthetically pleasing. You can read the music just fine, but in general the staves, notes, and text simply look computer generated. Still, considering all the other good things about Finale 2008, this is a minor issue for all but the most picky of composers.